NEW YORK – Congratulations to David Stern: Here were are, into December, and not one team has been eliminated from contention or contempt, heavy on the contempt slant.
I could have sworn the brainstorm behind the NBA lockout — and inescapable loss of countless millions as well as 16 games — was to ensure owners of regaining control of their product once business re-opened.
I thought the league’s intent was to quash the CBA system that allowed quasar Carmelo Anthony to hold the Nuggets’ franchise hostage by disrupting a season with a trade demand?
Exactly who won that contentious concern?
On the first day players were allowed to work out in team facilities in preparation for the start of practice, Dec. 9, it appears Chris Paul already has polluted his position with Hornets fans.
Through agent Leon Rose, the rising free agent supposedly notified GM Dell Demps he wants to be dealt to a Knicks team, sooner than later, like today vs. tomorrow . . . a Knicks team that can’t remotely reimburse New Orleans.
According to someone very much in the know, Paul “made no trade demand.” Rose leaked his client’s preference to the media, the same way he did with Carmelo Anthony.
That racket you hear in the background, I suspect, is Dwight Howard warming up his vocal chords to alert the Magic he’s agreed to become a Jay Leno regular and, thus, would appreciate being relocated to L.A. with either the Lakers or Clippers.
Then there’s Deron Williams, who holds the same seemingly loaded cards as Paul and Howard. All three have two years remaining on their contracts. Each owns an opt-out clause after this season.
To Williams’ credit, he’s being very professional about his hand. Evidently, he’s content to play out the season and see how much talent Nets management is able to assemble. If this is not truly his stance, at least he’s not going public with a contrary one.
Clearly, I think, Paul, Howard and Williams continue to possess the preponderance of clout.
“They really don’t,” one team executive refutes. “Because they take a huge financial hit if they leave at the end as free agents. Paul and Williams are owed $53 million. If they stay put and opt out at the prescribed date after the season, they’re entitled to sign for $100 million over five years. If they sign elsewhere, that number drops to $74 million.”
That is precisely why players now have an added incentive to try to get moved, another club exec emailed. “That way the new team can offer the extra year and higher annual percentage bumps. So, the player has more incentive to make a stink to get moved.
“At the same time,” the exec underlined. “a team has more leverage to play it out, and, ultimately, to force the player to choose between money and location.”
In Paul’s case, the team is owned by the league. This makes this situation particularly precarious, prickly and problematic.
Hugh Weber may be the Hornets’ president but there ain’t no way he and Demps are making a trade decision involving Paul without the express written consent of the commissioner.
While I applaud Paul’s pitiless competitive spirit, does he honestly believe Stern can be intimidated into donating him to the Knicks?
And, as a result, devalue a team so badly it can’t be sold for anything vaguely close to the going rate of other foundering franchises.
At best, the Hornets would have to shuffle off to Seattle or St. Louis or Suffolk County.
At worst, the league would be forced to schedule a Christmas Day dispersal draft.
In other words, a Hornets-Knicks swap is not going to happen. Yes, Amare Stoudemire does qualify as acceptable compensation . . . except, oh, yeah, his contract is uninsured against bodily injury. A three-way deal is equally unpromising for the same reason; New York has nothing, no first-round picks in the near future, and nobody worthwhile to exchange.
While on the subject, why would anyone (oops) think the Knicks might designate Renaldo Balkman as their amnesty contract over the course of the CBA, column contributor Michael Catareva correctly questions?
“You can’t delete chump change when you’ve got Stoudemire’s this (ACL), that (back), or the third thing threatening to vacate MSG at a moment’s notice,” he said. “Makes a little more sense to save the amnesty exception for a catastrophe.”
Meanwhile, if Paul is dead set on leaving his heart in New Orleans and forming a defensively and medically tipsy tripod with Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire, he’ll have to play out this season for the talent-challenged Hornets.
Even with Paul as a alluring inducement, it has never been easy to recruit quality free agents. So, imagine how difficult it’s going to be now that everyone knows for sure he’s on the way out.
Why wound David West want to return to such unstable circumstances, other than for larger bimonthly paydays, of course?
That’s the way it goes, I guess. And that’s the way it is.
At the risk of being a comprehensive crapehanger, before the actual time comes, Knick management might want to assess what Paul brings to the Garden Party without ‘Melo looking over its shoulder.
As much as he’s got going for him, Paul is a less athletic Derrick Rose and you saw how the Heat handled him. In other words, he’s too short to cover Dwyane Wade, and, at $13 million per season ($55.5 million tops without benefit of a sign-and-trade), it’ll be impossible to bag a worthwhile big man.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.